MOSCOW (RFE/RL)–Turkey should not link the normalization of its relations with Armenia to further progress in international efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday.
Putin also reaffirmed Moscow’s support for Turkey’s dramatic rapprochement with Armenia, his country’s main regional ally, after talks with his visiting Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“We receive with great optimism Turkish proposals on the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations,” he told a joint news conference. “We very much hope all elements of shortest approaches [to the normalization] will be used in the negotiating process and Armenia’s leadership is also on this positive path.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was among foreign dignitaries that attended the signing in Zurich last October of two protocols envisaging the establishment of diplomatic relations between Armenia and Turkey and the opening of their border. Erdogan has repeatedly stated since then that Turkey’s parliament will not ratify the protocols without a resolution of the Karabakh dispute acceptable to Azerbaijan. Armenia responded to those statements by threatening to walk away from the deal.
In remarks that will be welcomed by Yerevan, Putin made clear that Moscow believes the two issues should not be “tied in one package.” “It is difficult to solve each of these problems separately, and if one tackles them in a single package, then prospects for their settlement will automatically become very remote,” he said. “Packaging these problems is not quite right from the practical and strategic standpoints.”
The Karabakh conflict was expected to be on the agenda of Erdogan’s talks with Putin and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Speaking at a Moscow diplomatic academy earlier in the day, Erdogan implicitly urged the Russians to do more to broker a Karabakh settlement. He said they can become “the most important actor” in the Karabakh peace process.
The Turkish premier’s high-profile visit focused on growing Russian-Turkish energy cooperation. Medvedev described Moscow’s current rapport with Ankara as “strategic partnership.”